Would kicking Vandy even be enough?
It’s funny, the difference a year can make.
Funny, too, is the way more things change, the more they stay the same.
Tennessee was in a familiar place just a year ago, going into a game against Vanderbilt where the 0-6 Southeastern Conference record belonged to the Vols, not the ’Dores.
There’s not a lot of familiar faces left on the Tennessee sideline 52 weeks later. Derek Dooley had to replace seven assistant coaches over an offseason that followed an inexplicable 10-7 loss at Kentucky, capping an inexcusable 5-7 2011 season that put the coach squarely on the hot seat after just two seasons in Knoxville.
But the one ‘W’ in the Vols 1-7 SEC record a year ago was Vanderbilt. So what if it took overtime and a controversial Eric Gordon interception return for a touchdown to decide the game.
A win is a win in the Dooley Era — an era where those have been few and far between in the SEC.
But Tennessee’s dramatic win over Vandy caused for a celebration in the post-game lockerroom that saw Dooley being hoisted on the shoulders of his players as celebration swept the room.
A cell phone camera caught the cries of victory and not long after, the video made it’s way to YouTube. Sounds harmless enough.
And harmless it was until Dooley quieted his team just long enough to let them know that “Tennessee always kicks the (expletive) out of Vanderbilt.”
Understandably, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin took exception to both the video finding it’s way onto the Internet and Dooley’s jab at the cross-state rival being made public.
A year removed, though, Franklin said during a press conference this week that the video wouldn’t be used as extra motivation leading up to today’s rematch in Nashville.
And, honestly, the ’Dores don’t need a chip on their shoulder this week.
Vanderbilt is the better team on paper. Franklin’s squad is already bowl eligible at 6-4 overall after a come-from-behind win at Ole Miss last week gave Vandy four wins in the SEC — that’s the same number of league wins Dooley has in three years.
He won three of those four in November 2010.
Clearly, Franklin has Vanderbilt on the way up while Dooley is on the way out.
So why bring up the past?
With a revamped list of assistant coaches, Dooley and Tennessee are at 0-6 in the league — again — and 1-13 in their last 14 SEC tries. Should Tennessee lose today, Monday would mark one calender year between SEC wins.
Dooley said at SEC Media Days over the summer that Tennessee wasn’t going to be kicked around anymore in the SEC.
But behind a defense that averages giving up more than 480 yards of offense and 37 points per game, kicks have come aplenty at Tennessee’s expense this season in another 0-for-SEC so far.
Last week was a four-overtime loss to a Missouri team that Tennessee dominated over the first two quarters.
But questionable decision making, clock management and Tennessee’s kicked around defense led to another letdown.
The fallout removed most, if not all, of the ‘if’ from Dooley’s job status.
Funny, the difference a year makes.
A year later, even kicking the (expletive) out of Vanderbilt isn’t enough to save Dooley’s job.
Grant Ramey is a sports writer at The Daily Times. He can be reached at 865-981-1145 or (email@example.com)